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Basics – Composition

What is Composition?

Composition in Photography is very difficult to define, as it is very subjective. Although it is subjective it can be considered as a recipe as well as consideration of best practices.

When shooting one should consider Shapes and patterns, texture, lines, symmetry and extremely important is Depth of Field. When shooting portraits or people the photographer should consider ALL of the above and cropping and “Filling the Frame”

Patterns are everywhere and can be linear and non-linear. To make a pattern interesting one might consider the plane in which the image is captured either direct or indirectly shot. Shooting even with the plane would eliminate depth of field consideration. An uneven plane one could consider depth of field to make the image sharp on the subject and blurred to the remaining pattern.

Texture can add dimension and contrast to the image. Utilize light on a textured surface to make the texture three-dimensional.

Lines and converging lings can lead the viewers eyes directly to the subject or even take the viewers eyes on a journey through the image. Lines are VERY powerful in an image and can keep the viewers eyes from wondering all over the image to focus on the subject.

Depth of field again is a method that can be VERY dramatic and push the vies eyes directly on the subject. It can isolate the subject from the foreground and the background.

When shooting the photographer should consider ‘Filling the Frame”. Subjects too far away can become have less impact and basically unimportant as the viewer can see no detail. Although there are exceptions to this rule and is highly subjective. Filling the frame creates a full image of the subject with great detail and creates a high impact image. Not filling the frame is one of if not the most often mistake made by amateur photographers.

Cropping in the camera and in post processing is extremely important when considering composition. Some general rules for shooting portraits or groups is as follows:

Always crop above the elbow, typically cropping mid upper arm is best.

Always crop above the knee, typically cropping mid upper leg is best.

When shooing full body or bodies, try NOT to cut off fingers or feet. Also try not to cut off the top of the head although many times this is done in high fashion photography.
In general, try not to create an amputated look by cropping out body parts. And remember to stay in close and fill the frame.

Composition – Good Practice or Bad Practice

The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds basically states that an image should be divided into 9 equal parts by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. The parts of the image that the photographer wants to emphasize should be placed at the intersections of these lines. This process, it is said, creates more energy and tension in the image by empasizes the important composisional elements of the image. See example below:

When composing an image, you should always ask yourself, what is my point of interest in this image and what part of the frame of the image should I place them? And finally, rules are made to be broken. The rule of thirds is a basic principle that is to be given consideration in all your images. But, sometimes, rules are made to be broken. Photography is subjective to the photographer and the viewer. Learn and apply basic composition skills and then break out of the rules when necessary.

Copyright Robert Shreve Photography

[Chapter 6]

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